"Civilian" is the new album from Baltimore indie… (Handout photo, Baltimore…)
Every spring, indie bands head to Austin, Texas, in droves for the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference. So do the industry folks.
The festival, which turns 25 this year, is considered the end-all, be-all for up-and-coming bands. Thousands of acts turn up to test their mettle in front of even more critics, label folks and fans. A good string of performances could push a band into the national spotlight; one bad show can be enough to send them home, tail between legs.
This year, several Baltimore bands are entering the fray — most making repeat showings, playing highbrow showcases and fringe spots. Here are three prominent Baltimore bands playing at this year's festival, which starts next week.
J. Roddy Walston and the Business Last year, Baltimore rockers J. Roddy Walston and the Business raised plenty of eyebrows with a scorching set at South by Southwest. A few months after, they released their first album on a record label and have toured heavily on it since then. This year, they're headed back to SXSW for eight performances, including two sets at cooking personality Rachael Ray's showcases, which, believe it or not, are some of the festival's more notable events. Go to myspace.com/jroddy.
June Star Andrew Grimm is no stranger to Americana fans in Baltimore. As the lead singer and songwriter of June Star, he's been a presence on the local scene for several years, and he still performs regularly at clubs and pubs. "Lower Your Arms" is the new June Star album, and Grimm will no doubt be playing songs from it at South by Southwest. He's not a part of any major label showcase, but no matter — he's content to play in alleys and wherever else he can spread his music. Go to junestar.com.
Wye Oak "Civilian" is the sparse, haunting new album by this Baltimore duo, who are signed to Merge Records. Live, singer/guitarist Jenn Wasner and drummer/bassist Andy Stack put forth a huge sound, given the two people on stage. Wasner knows her way around a guitar, and Stack's multitasking (he plays drums and keyboard bass at the same time) are a sight to behold. They're playing about 10 sets, from a Merge Records showcase to a show for the blog BrooklynVegan. Go to wyeoakmusic.com.